✏️ Updated on 21st January 2021
Welcome my watery friends to my ‘Surfboard Buying Guide 2021’. If you’re here, you must be after some guidance for the sick new stick you’re thinking of buying!
In this post we’ll be looking all the major things you need to consider when doing your surfboard buying research. Here are the areas we’ll be covering…
1. What Surfboard Should I Get?
Now that the scene for this surfboard buying guide is somewhat set – what surfboard should I get?
There are a couple of really helpful posts like the different ‘Types of Surfboard’ and the ‘Types of Surfboard Noses and Tails’ that will help but the quickest is my ‘What Surfboard Should I Get Quiz’.
This quiz will give an estimated surfboard type and size that is right for you based on your surfing ability. It’s a great starting point and compliments the rest of this surfboard buying guide really well.
2. Levels of Surfing Ability
Surfers come in many shapes and sizes but it always been hard to measure ability. The standard beginner, intermediate, advanced is not very descriptive so I’ve created some better ability levels…
- Level 1 – Never surfed before
- Level 2 – Learning beginner standing up
- Level 3 – Intermediate doing turns
- Level 4 – Pro doing cutbacks
- Level 5 – Big wave legend
Level 1 – Never Surfed Before
If you’re a brand new starter in the world of surfing, welcome onboard – pun fully intended.
If you’ve read the recommended articles above two things should be obvious for yourself when choosing a surfboard; volume and size. I want to get you off to the best start so these are the surfboards you should be looking at and why…
- Foam surfboards – The best way to start is to start with the best. Foam surfboards are designed specifically for never surfed before beginners and are perfect for a number of reasons. They hold loads of volume, they’re very durable and typically low cost. If you’ve ever seen a surf school at the beach, this is what they’ll be using. You cannot go wrong with a foam surfboard as a level 1 surfer.
- Mini mals – A more adventurous choice for a level 1 would be the mini mal. Having never surfed before these might be a stretch at first but are a great investment if you know surfing is a long term deal. The majority of mini mals still offer great volume and more progression than a foam surfboard.
Level 2 – Learning Beginner Standing Up
If this ability level sounds familiar I’m gonna guess you’ve had the odd surf lesson or you might have dabbled on a rental foamie a few times. You’re standing up most of the time but want to start learning to turn, here are the surfboards for you…
- Mini mals – The perfect choice for a level 2. Having experienced the surfing basics on a foam surfboard the mini mal will help that progression to turning. High amounts of volume helps keep you catching lots of waves whilst more manoeuvrability will help you start progressing that bottom turn.
- Longboards – The longboard is another worthy choice for a level 2 surfer. With more volume and straight line speed than a mini mal this is another good option for surfers wanting to progress. This is the longest surfboard though so keep storage and transportation in mind.
- Funboards – The ‘out there’ choice for a level 2. With less volume then both the longboard and the mini mal, a funboard offers less in stability. However, in return this surfboard type is much more manoeuvrable and so is great for offering long term surfing progression.
Level 3 – Intermediate Doing Turns
Anyone falling into this ability level should have a good number of waves under their belt. Most level 3 surfers will also have already owned their own surfboard. You’ve mastered standing up and are turning on most waves, these are the surfboard types for the level 3’s.
- Funboards – Offering a great balance between wave catching ability and manoeuvrability is the funboard. The safer choice for a level 3 but great for keeping that wave count up to continue improving those bottom turns. These surfboards perform well in a wide range of conditions so are a great addition to any surfboard quiver.
- Fish surfboards – The more daring choice for a level 3 surfer who wants to shorten their board. Fish surfboards are perfect for those mushy conditions and easier to transport than the funboard. Watch out though, with less volume and length comes less stability and a harder time paddling.
Level 4 – Pro Doing Cutbacks
If you’re this far down the list then you probably already know this stuff. You’ve mastered the bottom turn and are ironing out the creases in your cutbacks. These are the surfboards most suitable for level 4 surfers.
- Fish surfboards – The fish offers a wider more stable surfboard that can still perform well in mushy conditions. The swallow tail creates two pivot points so allows for great manoeuvrability in both directions. Available in sizes ranges from 5ft 4 all the way to 6ft 4.
- Shortboards – The most common surfboard for a level 4 surfer. The shortboard provides the highest level of performance in good conditions and is the most used surfboard in competitions. With a narrower shape and squarer tail then the fish, the shortboard generates great speed on a wave and is capable of rapid turns and cutbacks.
Level 5 – Big Wave Legend
The final surfing ability level is reserved for our big wave legends. Now, if you’re actually a big wave legend as in you eat 15ft swells for breakfast, than that’s just great. You’ll know every trick in the book and have a huge amount of surfing experience, this is the surfboard you should be riding…
- Gun – When there’s big waves chasing you down there’s only one surfboard type you want under your feet, that surfboard is the gun. With its narrow surface, long shape and large rocker it’s the perfect board to keep you alive on a big wave.
3. Surfboard Size Charts
Hopefully by now you should have a bette
r idea of the surfboard type that is right for you. The next bit of this surfboard buying guide is trying to nail down what size surfboard you need. This bit was also in the ‘What surfboard should I get quiz’ so go check that out if you haven’t already, it’s really helpful.
4. What Surfboard Accessories Do I Need?
By now I’m hoping this surfboard buying guide has told you your surfboard type and size – but what else do you need?
Two things are for sure, storage space and a means of transporting your surfboard. This next section will go through all the surfboard accessories you’ll need to become a fully fledged surfing wannabe.
Yes, you’ll need some decent surfboards fins. If you’re a beginner there are some great beginner surfboard packages that come with fins included. These beginner packages not only take away the hassle of fin compatibility, but also often come with a leash and bag included, nice.
In terms of surfboard fin setup, the safest setup to go for is the three fin Thruster setup. I’ve written a post if you want more information about the types of fin setup and what each one offers to the rider.
One thing to remember, there are different brands of surfboard fin and not every surfboard fin is compatible with every surfboard. One of the most frustrating things as a new surfer is knowing if you’re buying the correct type of surfboard fin for your surfboard – so be sure to check before you buy.
The next thing you’ll want is a surfboard leash. This thing will save you countless swims back to shore when you fall off, and you will fall off.
They look straight forward but here are a few things worth knowing before going ahead and purchasing one;
- The leash needs to be at least the length of the surfboard its attached to if not slightly longer.
- The leash length in the product description is just the length of the cord and does not include the other stuff (the cuff that attaches to you or the rail saver that attaches to your board).
- Get a thick one, preferably 8mm, you should value a leash that doesn’t snap over one that creates less drag every time.
- Get at least one swivel feature to reduce the chances of it getting tangled up, my fav are the double swivel leashes.
We’ve got a pretty tasty collection of the best surfboard leashes for you to check out.
The last thing on the ‘will definitely need’ list is surfboard wax. With such a broad range of temperatures, coat types, smells and overall quality – which one do you need?
The easiest way to find out which surfboard wax you need is to know the temperature of the water you’ll be surfing in. Once you know the temperature it’s as easy as checking the table below for the type you need, from Extra Cold to Tropical.
If you’re after some gnarly surfboard wax be sure to check out our awesome range.
Although surfboard wax provides a great amount of grip, some surfers opt to add an additional tailpad, also known as a traction pad.
Benefits of a tailpad are:
- Tailpads offer superior grip to enable much more powerful turns when compared to just wax.
- They also offer a solid rear foot platform for anyone thinking of doing aerials.
- Using a tailpad will mean using less surfboard wax.
- Lastly, the tailpad also helps protect the surfboards tail from knocks and dings.
Negatives of a tailpad are:
- Tailpads are notoriously hard to move once they’re stuck in place, so you have to get it right first time.
- Getting on and off the board can cause chaffing when you’re not in a wetsuit.
- Tailpads don’t really get on well with foam surfboards, especially if you decide to remove it.
For some of the freshest tailpad designs be sure to check out our range.
5. Surfboard Care
Once you’ve taken in all of the above the next best thing I can tell you is how to look after your fancy new surfboard. This stuff plus everything else that’s included can be very expensive. This next section of my surfboard buying guide will cover how to best look after your beloved surfboard and all of its accessories.
Get A Surfboard Bag
If you only do one in this section make sure it’s this one.
A surfboard bag is probably the most important bit of surfing kit you can buy. It helps you carry your board from A to B but more importantly protects it from the outside world. Remember, more than 60% of your dings will happen out of the water, a surfboard bag reduces that number.
Tips when looking for a new surfboard bag;
- Get a surfboard bag at least four inches longer than your actual surfboard. I have learnt the hard way on this one and it wasn’t fun.
- Get an actual surfboard bag. Surfboard socks are the lower cost alternative and just wont do the job. The difference in the level of protection is large so the extra cost to buy a proper bag is certainly worth it.
If you’re after the best surfboard bags available, we’ve got you covered (pun intended).
Heat, Direct Sunlight & Salt Water
Like wetsuits, three things have a destructive effect overtime on a surfboard; heat, direct sunlight and salt water.
The heat and direct sunlight can be solved by a surfboard bag, so that bit’s easy, providing you get one. The salt water is also easy to address, simply drying off your surfboard with a towel after each session. If there’s an outdoor shower near the beach, feel free to cuddle up to your surfboard and rinse off any saltwater before travelling back home.
All of these things require a slight change in routine when putting your surfboard away but they don’t take very long and will help keep your surfboard in its best condition.
Gravity Will Win
We all do this and we know we shouldn’t, leaning our surfboards vertically against a wall *gasps*.
Yes, it takes up the least amount of storage space. Yes, it’s the most convenient way to put down your surfboard. BUT, it will fall over one day and when that day comes, don’t tell me I didn’t tell you so.
If you do have the space, a surfboard rack in a temperature controlled room is the best way to store your surfboard.
Fix Your Dings
This one goes without saying, if you have a hole in your surfboard – plug it. Unfixed dings are a killer to surfboards everywhere and if left untreated will do much more damage than good.
How do I know if a ding needs fixing? If your fingernail can be caught in the crack that’s a ding in need of repair. My top tip would be to get into the routine of checking the condition of your surfboard before heading out. Doesn’t need to be an extensive check but will help. If you’re unsure how to fix surfboard dings your local surf shop will be able to sort you out.
Ding repair kits are essential to any surfers accessory bag, way better to be prepared.
The final bit of surfboard care advice is to try and be aware of your surroundings when you’re surfing. This may sound stupid but a surfers environment can change very quickly without them even realising it.
- Beware of any potential rocks – these may not have been a problem when entering the sea but might become a problem before leaving it.
- Don’t ride your surfboard into the sand – Surfboard fins can be very expensive so are not something we want to lose. Hopping off your surfboard before it’s too shallow to surf will prevent them falling out or getting damaged.
And that my good friends concludes my ‘Surfboard Buying Guide 2021’.
There are a couples more topics worth mentioning on the subject of this surfboard buying guide: ‘Renting vs Buying’ and ‘Brand New vs Second Hand’. Both of these posts contain some helpful tips regarding each scenario so be sure to check them out.
Hopefully this surfboard buying guide has given you everything you need to make your decision the right decision. As always, be sure to follow on the usual socials below to keep up to date with the latest surfing content!
Next read: ‘Types of Surfboards’